Sinn Féin TDs this morning stated that an image change for the Government by way of tomorrow's Cabinet reshuffle would be useless unless there were real changes in policy. And the party's Dáil leader and Health spokesperson Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin said speculation that PD leader Mary Harney would be given the Health portfolio was "alarming".
He said, "After the European and local elections the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern admitted that the Fianna Fáil/Progressive Democrats Government lost the election and that the winners were Sinn Féin. A succession of Fianna Fáil backbenchers went to the media to say the Government was seen as too right wing and dominated by the policies of the PDs. Now Fianna Fáil wants to change its image in Government, showing that it 'listens to people' and is 'more caring'.
"The Government is trying to change its image because of the rise of Sinn Féin. If that makes the FF/PD Government also change some policies and deliver on some of their broken promises, well and good. All the more reason for people to continue to support Sinn Féin. What the people demand is real policy change and real delivery not just a change of image from Government. They need to deliver the goods not just shuffle the deck.
"There will be alarm in the Health services if, as reported, Mary Harney is to be made Minister for Health and Children. She is the leader of a party, the Progressive Democrats, which believes, according to its President, Michael McDowell, that inequality is good for society while we have one of the most inequitable health services in Europe. In their 2002 General Election manifesto the PDs, like Fianna Fáil, made promises on Health which they have broken. On medical cards they said: "We will ensure income eligibility criteria at least keep pace with movements in incomes." This promise was broken and there are now almost 100,000 fewer people with medical cards than when the FF/PD Government took office in 1997.
"After seven years of the PDs and Fianna Fáil in Government this State has the highest level of relative income poverty in Europe with 21 per cent of the population living on less than 60 per cent of median income (ESRI Report, September 2004). Unless this Government changes policy and strategy to use the massive resources available in our thriving economy to fund real reform and real improvements in health, education and social welfare, the Cabinet reshuffle will just be a change of faces, a mere shuffling of the deck." ENDS
NOTE TO EDITOR: Deputy O Caolain made his comments at a photo opportunity, involving the reshuffling of oversized novelty playing cards depicting various Government Ministers in Dublin today.
Sinn Féin MP Martin McGuinness addressing the Ulster Fry event at the British Labour Party conference in Brighton has said that 'initial comments by the British Secretary of State, Paul Murphy, that much of the Inquiry will be in private to protect British national security is an incredible acknowledgement that the British state itself was intimately involved in the killing of Pat Finucane'.
Commenting on the approach of the British government to an inquiry into the killing of Pat Finucane, Mr McGuinness said:
"So far the delivery of commitments and obligations by this British government does not instil confidence in our electorate. The most recent example of this is the announcement of an Inquiry into the murder of Human Rights Lawyer, Pat Finucane. There are serious concerns that the British government's approach will not meet the demands of the Finucane family for a full independent judicial public inquiry into his murder."
"The British government's record on the issue of collusion between its agencies and unionist paramilitaries has been one of denial, concealment and cover up. The announcement of the British government's proposed inquiry into the Finucane murder has only served to reinforce the fear that its cover-up of the issue of collusion is set to continue. It is vital that the terms of reference for this inquiry are published immediately in order to address the doubts and concerns of the Finucane family and all those who support their demand for a full independent judicial public inquiry.
"The initial comments by the British Secretary of State, Paul Murphy, that much of the Inquiry will be in private to protect British national security is an incredible acknowledgement that the British state itself was intimately involved in the killing of Pat Finucane specifically and that the policy of collusion with loyalist death squads was a British government policy pursued in their national interest. In short the British State killed citizens in Ireland for national security reasons. This is a scandal of enormous proportion and it is as much in the interests of British democracy as it is of Irish freedom that this scandal is exposed to public scrutiny.
"The Finucane family's demand for a full independent, international Inquiry must be met and Sinn Féin will continue to support and be guided by the views of the Finucane family." ENDS
Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson Arthur Morgan TD, has today said that 'restrictions on rent supplements are, as predicted, causing hardship.' Deputy Morgan was responding to a study commissioned by the social care agency CentreCare, and carried out by the Dublin Institute of Technology, which found that rent supplement restrictions were causing major hardship to many people.
Speaking today, Deputy Morgan said:
"Sinn Féin warned of the implications of the restrictions on rent supplement when the measures were announced. Senior officials in the Department of Social, Community and Family Affairs had expressed concerns that the restrictions of rent supplement to those who had been in private rented accommodation for six months would cause homelessness. The study commissioned by Centrecare clearly shows that those changes along with the cap on rents under the scheme are causing hardship for those in need of housing assistance.
"Many, if not all of the people in receipt of rent supplement should be entitled to access to social housing and it is disgrace that because of the decline in social rental housing stock in recent years they are not receiving the housing assistance which they should be entitled to. It is Sinn Féin's position that the only way this element of the housing crisis can be solved is by increasing the stock of social rental housing.
"I am deeply concerned that the plan announced in recent months by Minister Coughlan and Minister of State Noel Ahern that people will be denied rent supplement after 18 months on the misleading basis that local authorities, which simply do not have the funds, will be able to address their housing needs will further add to this hardship. It is only logical to assume that if local authorities were in a position to address the housing needs of these people they would surely have done so before now." ENDS
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams will tomorrow attend the annual National Ploughing Championships, which will be held in Grangeford, Tullow Co Carlow.
Speaking today on the eve of his visit, Mr Adams said:
"Sinn Féin seeks to listen and engage with the farming and rural communities the length and breadth of Ireland on agricultural and rural issues. Rural communities have been under sustained attack and are in serious decline. We are committed to revitalising Irish agriculture and rural communities on an All-Ireland basis. Along with my party colleagues, we will be meeting with a number of sectoral organisations to discuss and debate issues of relevance.
"The National Ploughing Championships presents our farming and rural communities with the opportunity to discuss and debate issues of relevance to the sector. Sinn Féin will continue to fight for Ireland to be designated a Genetically Modified (GM) free zone.
"Legislation and directives concerning nitrates, modulation, animal welfare, and the implementation of the CAP reforms will also be discussed. Other major issues are the continuing lack of progress in the restoration of the political institutions in the six counties, the ongoing ban on beef exports, and the failure of DARD and DAFRD to implement the agreement within the cross border ministerial council on an All Ireland animal and plant health policy.
"Sinn Féin advocates an All-Ireland strategy to ensure the sustainability of Irish agriculture and rural communities. We are prominently placed to effect real change."ENDS
Sinn Féin Health Spokesperson, Upper Bann MLA John O'Dowd has said that pressure to introduce a workplace smoking ban is now impossible to ignore and called on NIO direct rule Minster Angela Smith to enter into discussion with local politicians, practitioners from the Health field and from representatives of the business and hospitality trade to begin to work out the details for how such a smoking ban can be out in place.
Mr O'Dowd said:
"The pressure to introduce a workplace smoking ban is now impossible to ignore.
"The news that 7000 people in the South have given up smoking or attempted too since the introduction of the smoking ban is yet more evidence of the benefits of such legislation.
"The British government needs to come clean on its attitude towards the smoke free workplaces. NIO direct rule Health Minister Angela Smith has the ability to publish a consultation document on this now. She should do so without delay.
"I would also urge Angela Smith to enter into discussion with local politicians, practitioners from the Health field and representatives of the business and hospitality trade to begin to work out the details for how such a smoking ban can be put in place and about the terms of reference to this urgently required legislation." ENDS
Sinn Féin MP for Fermanagh South Tyrone Michelle Gildernew has challenged the DUP to wake up to the potential of All Ireland development. Ms Gildernew, speaking at the Sinn Fein All Ireland elected representatives forum, at which she outlined a comprehensive development agenda for the Good Friday Agreement architecture tonight said:
"Whatever the DUP believe, the reality is that we have an All Ireland framework that is here to stay. It is in the Good Friday Agreement and it is given form through the All Ireland Implementation Bodies and the North South Ministerial Council.
"The DUP are blind to the potential of the All Ireland Agenda. This political short sightedness does not put the people living in Ireland first; it puts the blinkered political agenda of the DUP first. The DUP will not dilute or undermine the basic All Ireland principles of the Agreement.
"The All Ireland Implementation Bodies benefit people across Ireland and Sinn Féin want to see work programmes in the agreed areas of co-operation consolidated and expanded.
"In areas such as education and health can we open the doors of opportunity and the sharing of skill and expertise. We have also seen projects such as the Autism Centre being set up in the border region and the cancer research partnership between the north and south of Ireland and the USA that pool resources and expertise.
"In animal health and agriculture evidence is mounting that an All Ireland policy approach is vital to the long term viability of farming across the Ireland. On environmental issues it is clear that pollution and meeting the demands of waste management, including issues such as the building of incinerators, require a stronger All Ireland approach and Sinn Féin have called for the establishment of an All Ireland Environmental Protection Agency.
"Engagement in the All Ireland agenda and building on the important progress achieved to date to deliver for all the people of Ireland remains a challenge for all the political leaders on this island. The expansion of the scope and remit of existing All Ireland Implementation Bodies and areas of cooperation along with the identification of new areas of harmonisation and action and creation of new implementation bodies are a vital step in unlocking the potential of the Agreement.
"It is illogical that a small island nation of slightly over 5 million people should have two political structures, two economies, two transport systems, two Education, Agriculture, Health, tourism etc systems. This duplication requires two bureaucracies that if challenged could I believe generate significant efficiencies and new money for expenditure on front line services, and investment in infrastructure." ENDS
Note to Editors
Sinn Féin's proposals on the Expansion of All Ireland Institutions & Areas of Work include:
Arts and Heritage;
Energy (to support the emerging All Ireland energy market);
Environmental Protection Agency.
Sinn Fein Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness MP will this afternoon travel to the British Labour Party Conference in Brighton. Speaking before his departure Mr McGuinness said that 'the British government must be defend the core principles of the Good Friday Agreement'.
Mr McGuinness said:
"My message to the British Labour Party members and activists in Brighton this week will be very clear. The progress made over the past decade and indeed over the past number of weeks has been based on developing a process of change with principles of dialogue, power sharing, all-Ireland institutions and fundamental equality at its core.
"It is clear that the progress achieved at Leeds Castle is based upon a strong defence of these core principles. The two governments, and particularly the British government are in absolutely no doubt that there can be no comprehensive agreement if there is any attempt to dilute these fundamental principles.
"Last November, in the wake of the Assembly elections the DUP declared themselves as the new and confident voice of unionism. We have yet to see any evidence of this confidence. At Leeds Castle the DUP ran away from dialogue with Sinn Féin - hardly a sign of a confident leadership.
" Sinn Féin is the largest nationalist party and the largest pro-agreement party. The DUP need to come to terms with this reality. They need to have the confidence to engage and reach an accommodation in the interests of all our people. ." ENDS
Speaking this afternoon in Belfast the Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP expressed concern at the approach of the two governments to the intransigence of the DUP. The Sinn Féin President also described the Review process as having run its course.
Mr Adams said:
"I am concerned at the approach of the two governments at this time and their failure to deal with ongoing DUP intransigence. The DUP want to hollow out the core of the Good Friday Agreement. They have been very clear about this.
"In particular the two governments have failed to build upon the momentum created at Leeds Castle. The DUP are blocking progress. The governments are refusing to face up to this reality.
" Sinn Féin is calling on the two governments to move on. That has been our private position in ongoing dialogue with London and Dublin. It is also our public position. The Review has run its course. The DUP has failed to win any of the pro-Agreement parties over to an anti-Agreement position. That is hardly surprising. There is no longer any excuse for the government's delaying any further." ENDS
Sinn Fein West Belfast MLA Fra McCann, who is also the Assembly spokesperson on senior citizens, has welcomed the announcement by both the Dublin and British Government that they are considering extending the free public transport policy for pensioners across the whole islands.
Fra McCann said:
"Senior citizens are at greater risk from suffering from isolation so therefore it is essential that they do have access to accessible, safe transport. They are major users of public transport, as many do not have access to a car.
"Extending free public transport for pensioners throughout the island, will ensure that barriers to accessing services, employment and volunteering, educational, recreational and social opportunities are removed hence enhancing social inclusion in all aspects of our community.
"It is also essential that there is ministerial responsibility which specifically deals with the rights and entitlements of senior citizens. In order to drive decision making as a means of taking action across all departments, in order to put the rights of the senior citizens at the very heart of decision making." ENDS
Sinn Féin will hold a pre-cabinet reshuffle photo opportunity at the St. Stephens Green end of Grafton Street tomorrow Tuesday September 28th at 10.30am in advance of the Taoiseach's announcement of his new cabinet.
Large novelty size playing cards depicting various Government Ministers will be used to highlight Sinn Féin's assertion that no amount of reshuffling of cabinet posts can disguise the fact that the Government has singularly failed, despite a booming economy, to address the many inequalities and injustices that exist in Irish society today.
Fundamental policy shifts, not cosmetic exercises will be the message that Sinn Féin will be putting across.
A number of Sinn Féin TDs and Dublin City councillors will be present at the event and available to talk to the media.
Cabinet Reshuffle Photo Opportunity
Tuesday 28th September at 10.30am
St. Stephens Green end of Grafton Street
Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Agriculture, Martin Ferris TD has come out in support of farmers who are refusing to supply cattle to beef processing plants today in protest at cuts in the price paid to farmers.
Deputy Ferris said: "The cut in the price being paid to farmers by the beef processors represents a serious blow to incomes in that sector. As farmers spokespersons have pointed out, if sustained the price cut will mean that farmers will in many instances have produced at a loss.
"Once again this illustrates the extent to which the share of the price charged to consumers that goes to farmers is being squeezed by both the processors and retailers. That is a trend that can be clearly demonstrated going back well over the past decade and is perhaps the most serious issue currently facing farmers in all areas of production, not just in beef. It also illustrates the need for the Government to take a close look at the manner in which prices are fixed, and for the farmers' organisations to have a serious rethink about the way in which the processing sector is structured as corporate interests strengthen their hold to the detriment of producers and consumers." ENDS
Sinn Féin North Antrim MLA, Philip McGuigan, has claimed government departments want to destroy the rural way of life by targeting single house developments in the countryside. Mr McGuigan has said that people 'must have the right to build a single dwelling in rural areas, provided they can meet with other planning and design criteria'.
The Department of Regional Development has released a consultation document about 'sustainable development in the countryside'.
According to Cllr McGuigan:
"We must certainly protect the rural environment and countryside. But, I don't think that killing off the rural way of life is the way to do this. Forcing people who have lived all their life in the countryside into towns will only undermine the long term stability of rural communities.
"Single houses are a feature in rural Ireland and have sustained very well for the past 800 years or more. It is this quality of life that must be protected. Single dwellings in many areas along with smaller towns provide the lifeblood of communities and parishes in Ireland and add greatly to society in general.
"The policy document, rather than an attempt to regulate building appears only to focus on restricting building in the country."
Cllr McGuigan said that the department should instead look closer at finding solutions to the growing problem of second or holiday home development.
"Along the coastal areas of North Antrim many young people are faced with an impossible situation. On the one hand they are refused permission to build on their own land by planning policy, and on the other can't afford the spiralling house prices in the towns and villages because of second or holiday homes. If not addressed this will become an ever greater problem and could forcibly tear apart rural families, rural communities and ultimately, the rural way of life." ENDS
Sinn Féin representative for Dublin South East, Councillor Daithí Doolan, speaking ahead of tomorrow's National Waste Summit in Croke Park, has said he will be raising the issue of the proposed incinerator for the Poolbeg Peninsula with the Minister for Environment Martin Cullen. "I will be asking Mr Cullen for a firm commitment to not allow unelected City Management officials to overturn the recent vote taken by Dublin City Council against incineration".
Councillor Doolan said "Tomorrow's conference will give us the opportunity to engage with the stakeholders in industry. No one doubts that we face a waste crisis but the only rational approach is to pursue a Waste Management Strategy that respects the wishes of the majority and offers a sustainable, workable waste strategy. "
"Sinn Féin have provided such a strategy 'A Zero Waste Strategy' one that is based on reducing the demand to produce and consume waste, reuse where appropriate and the investment in our fledgling recycling industry. It is a strategy that goes to the source of our waste crisis rather than becoming dependant on landfill or incineration. Incineration will only force us to produce and consume more waste."
Cllr. Doolan concluded by calling on Minister Cullen to "listen to and uphold the vote cast by the vast majority of the elected representatives of the people. There is clearly cross party support now for our position. It is imperative that democracy is not burned or buried along with our waste". ENDS
Anti incineration Public meeting Thursday September 30th 8pm Ringsend Community Centre, Ringsend.
Speaking at an Agreed Ireland Forum event at the Labour Party Conference in Brighton Sinn Féin Human Rights Spokesperson, Catriona Ruane said that the British government should not be allowed to administer or control any 'Truth' process that may emerge as part of the Peace Process.
At the debate, titled ' does the North need a Truth Commission', Ms Ruane said:
"I welcome the debate on whether the North of Ireland requires the establishment of a 'Truth Commission'. Sinn Féin has been to the fore in support of the relatives of victims seeking full disclosure of the circumstances of the deaths of loved ones.
"We believe that it is a part of healing and dealing with the hurt of the past. But if there is to be a statutory 'Truth Commission' then it needs to be totally independent and deal with the conflict in a comprehensive manner. There can be no hierarchy of victims and all of the protagonists need to be willing to co-operate with it fully and openly.
"Under no circumstances can the British government set the parameters of such a commission and it must also be willing to co-operate fully with it.
"The British government and its agencies were one of the main protagonists in the conflict and acted with impunity throughout the past thirty-five years. It therefore cannot set itself up as the arbiter in any Truth Commission."
Sinn Féin Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness MP speaking after a meeting in London has stated that 'Sinn Fein has consistently said that there can be no dilution of the fundamentals of the Good Friday Agreement and that the role of the British government must be defend the core principles of the Agreement'.
Speaking in Belfast today Mr McGuinness said:
"It is clear that the progress achieved at Leeds Castle is based upon a strong defence of the core principles of the Good Friday Agreement - power sharing, all Ireland Institutions and Equality. The two governments, and particularly the British government are in absolutely no doubt that there can be no comprehensive agreement if there is any attempt to dilute these fundamental principles.
"This week has not seen the progress that was made at the Leeds Castle talks built upon. We have not seen the resolute defence of these principles by the two governments. Sinn Fein has consistently said that there can be no dilution of the fundamentals of the Good Friday Agreement and that the role of the British government is to defend the core principles of the Agreement.
"Progress on achieving comprehensive agreement, involving the DUP, is only possible if the DUP move away from their anti-agreement position.
"The DUP want nationalists and republicans to trust them. Yet the track record of unionism in the Assembly, and tellingly in unionist dominated councils is one of exclusion, discrimination and refusal to share power. This is why any dilution of the principles of the all Ireland, power sharing and equality aspects of the agreement is totally unacceptable to nationalists and republicans.
"There is a particular responsibility on the two governments to spell out this reality to the DUP. Sinn Fein is the largest nationalist party, the largest pro-agreement party and we will not agree or sign up to anything that dilutes or undermines the core principles of the Good Friday Agreement." ENDS
Sinn Féin President Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness MP, speaking after meeting with the family of Pat Finucane, has said that there are 'serious concerns about the British governments approach to the demand for a full independent judicial public inquiry into the killing of Pat Finucane'.
Speaking after meeting the Finucane family, Mr McGuinness said:
"The British governments record on the issue of collusion between its departments and agencies and unionist paramilitaries has been one of denial, concealment and cover up.
"The announcement yesterday from the British government has only served to reinforce the fear that this approach to the issue of collusion continues.
"It is vital that the terms of reference for this inquiry are published immediately in order to address the concerns of the Finucane family and all those who support their demand for a full independent judicial public inquiry into the killing.
"The British government has implicitly accepted that a public inquiry into Pat Finucane's killing is a threat to national security and that the issue of collusion goes to the heart of the British governments policy in Ireland.
"Sinn Féin reiterated at today's meeting that we will continue to be guided by the views of the Finucane family." ENDS
Sinn Féin MEP for Dublin Mary Lou McDonald has welcomed the announcement by National Resources Minister Dermot Ahern that he has signed an agreement with the British Government to link the gas networks between the north and south of the island.
Ms McDonald commented that "there is a huge potential in the development of not just a single energy market throughout Ireland but in greater harmonisation across a number of areas".
Speaking today Ms McDonald said:
"Sinn Féin welcomes the announcement of this agreement which will see a new gas pipeline established by 2006, allowing gas to be pumped from the south of the country, into the six counties. There is a huge potential in the development of not just a single energy market throughout Ireland but in greater harmonisation across a number of areas, including health, agriculture and tourism.
"Sinn Féin has argued for the creation of an all Ireland energy market. The signing of this agreement should put in place the framework for the establishment of a single all Ireland energy market by 2007.
"We will continue to advance a common sense approach to the delivery of services on an all-Ireland basis. There is a growing consciousness that the well-being and in some cases the survival, of specific sectors will depend upon delivery on an All Ireland basis. There are also real savings that can be made by removing duplication, in pooling resources and in developing economies of scale." ENDS
Sinn Féin Representative for Dublin South East, Councillor Daithí Doolan has today supported residents in the York Street area who are taking to the streets in a bid to make the streets safer for people who live there.
Councillor Doolan said:
"The last number of years have seen a huge increase in the level of traffic flow in the York Street area. This is a densely populated area and the sheer volume of traffic has put children at risk and has left the whole community under siege. This is simply not acceptable.
"Today's protest is an indication of how frustrated this community has become. The decision to block traffic was not taken easily but people here feel their voices will not be heard unless this action is taken.
"Residents in the York Street, Mercer Street area of Dublin have had to put up with unsafe streets for too long. It is time that Owen Keegan, Deputy City Manager, took the concerns of this community seriously and introduced a series of traffic calming measures for the area.
Cllr. Doolan concluded by urging "City Council's Traffic Department to deal with this as a matter of urgency before there is an accident or serious injury". ENDS
Protest will take place at 12:30pm today in Mercer Street Dublin 2 (off Stephen‚s green)
Sinn Féin National Chairperson, Foyle MLA Mitchel McLaughlin speaking after the statement from the British government in relation to an inquiry into the killing of Pat Finucane has said 'public interest demands full disclosure by the British government, its departments and agencies'.
Mr McLaughlin said:
"The track record of successive British governments in dealing with the issue of collusion, and specifically the killing of Pat Finucane has been one of denial, concealment and cover up.
"Any inquiry and the legislation it will be based on will be judged against its ability to uncover the full truth about collusion and the killing of Pat Finucane. Public interest demands full disclosure.
"Any effective inquiry requires that the British government, its departments and agencies co-operate fully.
"An informed judgement on the ability of this inquiry to delivery the truth can only be made when the legislation is published. In all of this Sinn Fein will continue to support the position of the family of Pat Finucane." ENDS
Sinn Féin Leinster House Whip, Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD, has accused the Government of treating the Dáil and members of the opposition with complete contempt after the publication of schedule for the resumption of the parliament next week. Deputy Ó Snodaigh said news that the Dáil would primarily only deal with the matter of the Cabinet Reshuffle on Wednesday next was completely unacceptable after over a two-month break for summer recess.
Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, "There are many, many issues of national and international importance that need to be urgently addressed by members of the Dáil yet with only days to go before it resumes after over two-months of recess we have only now just received what amounts to a skeletal schedule. It is clear that the summer break has not diminished the capacity of this Government's arrogance or complete contempt for the elected representatives of the people.
"Yes, the Cabinet reshuffle is important but that is no excuse for not having a normal full day sitting on Wednesday and Thursday next week.
"This move by the Government will only add to the cynicism of the general public who can be left in no doubt that the only reason the Dáil is making a token return on September 29th and 30th is to take the bad look off the extensive summer recess it has just enjoyed." ENDS